First rule to remember: A good copyeditor never relies on spell checkers.
Copyeditors mark up text in between the lines. There is no set process to follow. Each copyeditor develops his or her own system. And it is recommended to have a system, a particular set of rules to work by that works for you, otherwise mistakes will be missed.
Here are some steps to get a new copyeditor started:
Step 1: House Style
Ask the client if they have an in-house style manual or style sheets and refer to them. Set up a style sheet folder.
Step 2: Reading
Each reading of a text is called a “pass”. You would normally make three passes over a text. However, you would not read the text three times in one sitting.
First Pass – A light read to get the feel of the entire document. Correct literals as you go through the text.
Second Pass – This is when you do the real edit. You now look for grammar problems, inconsistencies and formatting errors. This is also when you have to concentrate on details such as language, spelling and punctuation. Read each paragraph carefully and slowly.
Third Pass – This is done after a break, at least overnight is preferred. Check the text one more time and check your mark ups are clear.
As a copyeditor, you must be able to sport errors in text, formatting and inconsistencies. But you must also be aware of factual errors, plagiarism and faults in style and vocabulary.
Writers are too close to their work. They read what they meant to say, not what is actually written. The copyeditor must fix these errors but should never change anything that does not need to be changed. You are the copyeditor, not the writer.